Judge Dan Mancini is susceptible to flattery.
Our review of Kill Bill: Volume 2, published September 13th, 2004, is also available.
The bride is back for the final cut.
The fourth film by Quentin Tarantino arrives on Blu-ray.
Facts of the Case
Looked dead, didn't I? But I wasn't. But it wasn't from lack of trying, I can tell you that. Actually, Bill's last bullet put me in a coma—a coma I was to lie in for four years. When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a "roaring rampage of revenge." I roared and I rampaged and I got bloody satisfaction. I've killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point, but I have only one more; the last one. The one I'm driving to right now. The only one left. And when I arrive at my destination, I am gonna kill Bill.—The Bride
Everything I said in my review of Kill Bill: Volume 1 about the movie being a technically spectacular but artistically regressive entry in Quentin Tarantino's oeuvre is true also of Volume 2. That said, the second volume in the Kill Bill duology is significantly better than the first (to the extent that they can be viewed as two separate movies at all). Here are eight reasons why:
1. The (mostly) Texas setting makes for some beautiful desert landscape backdrops and allows Tarantino to delve into homage to spaghetti westerns, the Southwest crime capers of the Coen Brothers (Blood Simple), and the work of buddy filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (who provided original music for Volume 2). Somehow, everything feels richer, more authentic, and more fully realized in Volume 2's dusty, low-rent America.
2. The Bride's mano-a-mano with Elle Driver is significantly briefer and more intimate than the famed Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves from Volume 1, but still manages to up the kickass factor. Plus, the fight has the most sardonically brutal finale of any in the duology.
3. Michael Madsen is ridiculously over-the-top as Bill's white trash brother, Budd—and I mean that as a compliment. His Margarita-blending skills alone will be forever etched in my brain.
4. Larry Bishop's turn as a sleazy, smartass titty bar owner is a clinic in the power of good character actors to do much with little. He owns his scene. Madsen's only along for the ride.
5. The revelation of how Elle Driver lost one of her eyes is the great sort of touch that most filmmakers don't bother with.
6. The "Cruel Tutelage of Pai Mei" chapter of the movie is not only funny, it's Tarantino's most successful attempt at fully capturing both the style and texture of the various B-movie subgenres (Hong Kong martial arts flicks, in this case) that he mimics across Kill Bill's long running time.
7. Michael Parks's performance as the octogenarian Mexican pimp, Esteban Vihaio, is utterly mesmerizing. He captures the character's slimy seductiveness so perfectly that you can't look away. Just check out the way his eyes only half-close when he blinks. It's the stuff of nightmares. (As a side note, Parks played Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in Volume 1, a character he originated in the Tarantino-penned and Robert Rodriguez-directed From Dusk 'Til Dawn and would go on to play again in both Death Proof and Planet Terror.)
8. Bill is the role of David Carradine's lifetime. He's not likely to top his performance in Volume 2.
Despite Volume 2's strengths, Tarantino has a little trouble wrapping up his revenge epic. The final chapter—the much-anticipated confrontation between the Bride and Bill—rides along primarily on Carradine's charismatic performance (both warm and menacing), but still suffers from bloat. Tarantino was clever to avoid trying to stage an action sequence to top those that had come before, but his humorous reduction of the tale to a kind of domestic squabble between two death-dealers doesn't quite resonate as it should. The logic of the turn of plot is soundly supported by the events that precede it, but the emotion isn't there. We accept Bill's fate—which is both just and appropriately poetic—but the Bride's final transformation is undercooked and clichéd. Tarantino tried to craft an exercise in slick style that pays off with a substantive climax and heart-warming denouement, but he came up short.
This Blu-ray release of Kill Bill: Volume 2 provides a modest image and sound upgrade over the original DVD. Improvements in image depth, clarity, and detail are subtle. They'll be most noticeable to those with large displays. Color saturation is what really separates this high definition release from its standard def predecessor. The transfer of Volume 2 is slightly superior to that of Volume 1 in that it looks a bit more like celluloid—perhaps because of some of Tarantino's aesthetic choices (the Pai Mei section of the film, for instance, has an intentional patina of film grain that is beautifully rendered on the disc).
The uncompressed audio is more dynamic than the Dolby 5.1 audio on the SD DVD. Dialogue is always crisp. The movie's many effects utilize the entire soundstage and provide plenty of punch.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What a drag that the Blu-ray edition of Kill Bill: Volume 2 has the same lame batch of extras that appeared on the nearly barebones DVD. I'm less enthusiastic than some fans about a Whole Bloody Affair release that would reintegrate the two volumes of Kill Bill into a single epic movie (the stark stylistic differences between the two volumes is one of the duology's strong points), but a deluxe Blu-ray set with the individual volumes plus the epic re-edit would have been something to get excited about. Heck, even a handful of high definition supplemental content exclusive to the Blu-ray would have been nice.
Kill Bill: Volume 2 is a competent if uninspired Blu-ray release. A modest audio-video upgrade over the SD DVD, no new extras, and the cold, hard truth that the movie appears to represent the beginning of a downward spiral for Tarantino (I hope the director's future films prove me wrong), make this disc hard to recommend to anyone but true believers.
Guilty as charged, but too cool to do time.
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Scales of Justice
• The Making of Kill Bill: Volume 2
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